Need a New Hip? Check the Joint Registry First
806,000 hip and knee implants were performed in the US in 2007 – that’s double the amount done a decade earlier. However, a 2007 study demonstrates that 7% of Medicare patients who underwent a hip replacement required another replacement hip within seven and a half years. That number, small as it sounds, translates into thousands of patients who eventually need a “do over”. A joint surgery involves risk, pain, convalescence, rehab and medical expenses; no one wants to go through that more than once if necessary.
A National Joint Replacement Registry helps reduce the rate of failed procedures by keeping a database of information that keys in surgeons to problematic implants, and provides insight as to how to avoid mess ups. According to Dr. Daniel Berry, chief of orthopedic surgery at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn, “Every country that has developed a registry has been able to reduce failure rates significantly.” Sweden is one case in point.
The newly formed American Joint Replacement Registry is still in its nascent stage and has started collecting data. Its goal is to improve the quality, outcomes, and cost-effectiveness of total joint replacement (TJR) surgeries through the achievement of four objectives:
1. Establish an infrastructure and a uniform system for the collecting device information and monitoring outcomes of TJR throughout the U.S.;
2. Identify patients who may need follow-up evaluation thereby increasing patient safety;
3. Create real-time survivorship curve in order to detect poorly performing implants;
4. Establish a uniform system that can be used to define the epidemiology of TJR for outcomes research to improve the quality and outcomes of patient care.
Until we have access to solid facts from the U.S. Registry, there are some proactive steps you can take if you are in the market for a new joint.
– Go with a highly experienced surgeon in a busy hospital; don’t look for the best deal. Ask for recommendations. A 2004 study published in The Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery found that patients receiving knee replacements from doctors who performed more than 50 of the procedures a year had fewer complications than patients whose surgeons did 12 procedures or fewer a year.
A similar trend was documented with hospital volume. Patients at hospitals that performed more than 200 knee replacements a year fared better than patients at hospitals that performed 25 or fewer.
– A joint replacement is not for everyone. Some arthritic problems are better served with medication, and surgery may be too risky for those who have uncontrolled high blood pressure or another serious chronic condition.
– Research the joint implant that your surgeon recommends. Find out how well it has performed in others and if there are known complications. Some implants are somewhat controversial and may cause tissue and bone damage; newer doesn’t necessarily mean better. If the hospital has its own registry, ask to review the data.
– Educate yourself as to what the surgery entails. The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeon’s patient information Web site, orthoinfo.org is very helpful.
– Prepare your recovery in advance. Arrange for the necessary support upon your return home, and make sure you have all the help you need. It is crucial not to overexert yourself during your initial healing period.